The per-play efficiency king of the last half decade, Jackson finds himself in another favorable situation in Tampa Bay. Last year, Jackson provided his usual explosive playmaking with 17.9 YPC (1st), 10.1 YPT (2nd) and five catches of 40-plus (T-6th) on only 100 targets. At 5-10, 175, Jackson is small and slight and not built for taking hits -- he missed 14 games over the last five seasons -- but he runs a blazing 4.35 40 and might be quicker than he is fast. With the Buccaneers, Jackson finds himself connected to another rising signal-caller in Jameis Winston, and while Mike Evans will do the heavy lifting, the receiving corps is not as deep as the Redskins' was last year. As such, Jackson should reprise his usual role of game breaker, and he could even see a slight uptick in targets if his 30-year-old body holds up.
The per-play efficiency king of the league (along with Jordy Nelson), Jackson had the lowest output of his career in 2015, thanks to a hamstring injury that cost him half the season. Once Jackson returned he was exactly the player you'd expect with 17.6 YPC, 10.8 YPT and four catches of 40-plus on only 49 looks. Prorate the eight games in which he saw snaps over a full season, and you'd get his usual 60-1,056-8 line with eight 40-yard plays. At 5-10, 178, Jackson isn't a red-zone threat, and he lacks the frame to catches passes over the middle or take on a go-to role. But few in the league are faster (4.35 40), quicker or more dangerous in space. Even at 28 and coming off a soft tissue injury, Jackson didn't appear to have lost a step, and at 29 should reprise his role as the team's deep threat and playmaker. It's worth noting the Redskins drafted Josh Doctson in the first round, making for a deeper and more crowded receiving corps. But it's Pierre Garcon, not Jackson, who stands to lose the most should Doctson contribute right away.
Say what you want about Jackson, but he's the undisputed per-target king wherever he plays. After leading the NFL with 10.7 YPT with the Eagles in 2013, Jackson put up an ungodly 12.3 YPT last year, tops among the league's 50 95-target receivers by a wide margin. Jackson's 13 catches of 40-plus yards were even more of an outlier — Jordy Nelson was second with eight, despite 57 more targets. In fact, the last player to have that many 40-plus catches was Randy Moss in 1998 (15). Jackson also lapped the field in YPC with 20.9. Among 95-target wideouts, Michael Floyd was a distant second with 17.9. At 5-10, 178, Jackson isn't going to see much red-zone work (only 10 targets there last year, one inside the 10), and he's never going to be a workhorse over the middle of the field. He's also injury prone, missing one game last year and suiting up for all 16 only twice in his seven-year career. But the 28-year-old doesn't seem to have a slowed at all since he ran a 4.35 40 at the 2008 NFL Combine, and his lateral quickness, acceleration and ability to change direction set him apart from other straight-ahead speedsters. Jackson should again be the Redskins' field stretcher with Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts working shorter routes on the outside and in the slot, respectively. While Jackson isn't likely to see No. 1 WR targets, and his touchdown totals fluctuate widely from year to year because he's so dependent on long-distance scores, his per-play production gives him a high yardage floor.
Either Jackson was paling around with Stringer Bell, or he was smeared on his way out of town. Regardless, he should provide a significant lift to the Redskins’ passing game. At 5-10, 175, Jackson’s the smallest of last year’s top-10 receivers, and only Antonio Brown is even close. As such, Jackson has to do most of his scoring from long range. Given his elite quickness and 4.35 40 speed, it’s achievable for him, but relying on big plays leads to more variance – Jackson’s touchdown totals (excluding rushing and returns) the last six years are: 2, 9, 6, 4, 2 and 9, respectively. Nonetheless, his playmaking ability is unmatched for a receiver his size. Jackson averaged a league-leading 10.7 YPT, had eight catches of 40 or more yards (tied for 2nd) and 24 catches of 20-plus (2nd), despite being just 23rd in targets. Of course, some of that was the product of Nick Foles’ and Chip Kelly’s hyper-efficient offense. Jackson’s situation is less settled in Washington with new head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Robert Griffin trying to bounce back from a down year after knee surgery. Moreover, Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed will both get their share of looks. But should Griffin resemble the player he was as a rookie, buying time in the pocket and zipping the ball downfield, there’s a lot of upside for Jackson in Washington. He also comes with some injury risk – while he played 16 games last year, he’s missed games in all but two seasons of his six-year career and nine total over that span. As for Jackson’s alleged “gang ties” or uncooperative demeanor, which reportedly caused the Eagles to cut him, that’s a risk you can consider, depending on how much trust you place in their rationale. It’s worth noting he had signed a five-year deal under previous coach Andy Reid and was due $10.25 million in 2014.
Jackson was more or less on his usual pace last year when a rib injury sidelined him for the season's final five games. To be precise, his efficiency numbers – 15.6 YPC, 8.0 YPT – were slightly down, but within the margin of error for a lower-volume, big-play threat over 11 games.
At 5-10, 175, Jackson is one of the smallest and slightest receivers in the league, and his body hasn't held up especially well over his five-year career. Besides the rib injury, he's dealt with concussions, foot and knee problems and missed time in every season since 2009. He's also unsuited for red-zone work, meaning he has to strike from deep to get into the end zone, something that's difficult for any receiver to do consistently – Jackson scored from scrimmage 10 times in 2009, but has only six touchdowns in his last 26 games.
On the plus side, Jackson is among the fastest and quickest players in the league and is deadly in open space. He's dangerous out of the backfield, and he can also get behind the defense on go routes. It'll be interesting to see how new coach Chip Kelly uses Jackson – there's even talk he'll be part of the team's read-option as a running back.
While Jackson didn’t show the same efficiency last season as he had during the previous two, he was still a dangerous big-play threat, averaging 9.2 YPT (8th) and hauling in five passes of 40-plus yards in 15 games. That Jackson only scored four touchdowns shouldn’t come as a major surprise – small, big play receivers don’t often get the easy pitch-and-catch TDs that make their taller, bulkier counterparts more reliable scorers. At 5-10, 175, Jackson is one of the fastest and shiftiest players in the entire league. He’s able blow by defenders off the line, or shake them and sprint by them in the open field. Jackson saw 14 red-zone looks last year, but only seven of those were from inside the 10, and the Eagles are more apt to lean on running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Brent Celek near pay dirt. Jackson signed a five-year, $51.1 million deal with the Eagles in March, something that should guarantee him another 100-odd targets at a minimum.
It's hard doing all of your damage from deep, but Jackson is the rare small, speed receiver who can make big plays consistently year after year. While his receiving TD totals dropped from nine to six, Jackson rushed for a touchdown and also took a punt return to the house – all in just 14 games. At 5-10, 175, and with explosive speed, elite quickness and the ability to change directions on a dime, Jackson would be hard to stop in two-hand touch. Jackson's 11 yards per target and eight catches of 40-plus would lead the league by a wide margin most seasons, though he finished second in both to Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace in 2010. And Jackson's 22.5 yards per catch easily led the NFL's 90-target receivers. The switch at quarterback from strong-armed Donovan McNabb to the even stronger-armed Michael Vick was seamless last year, although Jackson bears some of Vick's elevated injury risk. Jackson battled a concussion and then foot and knee sprains late in the year, but should be 100 percent for training camp. Unfortunately, health isn't the only issue coming into camp. Jackson is looking for a new contract and it looks like he will hold out until he gets his wish, which will put him in a position where he will try to start the season with less time in camp than everyone else.
The problem with small receivers is they
don’t typically get a lot of red-zone work, so
they have to make their money from deep —
something that’s a lot harder to do. Unless
you’re DeSean Jackson.
Jackson set opposing secondaries ablaze
with a league-leading 10 catches of 40 yards or
more on just 118 targets (21st). His 18.5 yards
per catch easily led the league’s 100-target
receivers, and his 9.9 yards per target ranked
fourth. As a result, he was able to haul in nine
touchdowns, despite seeing just 11 red-zone
targets and four from inside the 10. At 5-10,
175, Jackson is one of the league’s quickest and
most explosive players, but expecting 10 receptions
of 40-plus and nine scores is probably
excessive even for a player of his talent in Andy
Reid’s pass-happy system.
Of course, the other major variable here is
the departure of quarterback Donovan McNabb
and Kevin Kolb’s ascension to the starting job.
We expect Kolb, who showed flashes of brilliance
in limited opportunities a year ago, not to
miss a beat. But the switch comes with some
chemistry risk, especially with 2009 first-rounder
Jeremy Maclin, a big-play threat in his own right, in the fold.
With Kevin Curtis on the shelf to start the year, Jackson took full advantage, establishing himself as the team’s top target and most explosive deep threat right out of the gate. As such, he heads into 2009 as Donovan McNabb’s No. 1 receiver, a good thing to be considering the Eagles’ were fourth in the NFL in passing attempts with 38 per game.
Jackson had his lapses last season, none more egregious than showboating and spiking the ball before reaching the end zone (otherwise known as fumbling voluntarily) during a Monday night game. But his quickness, deep speed and ability to make defenders miss allowed him to haul in 17 catches of 20 yards or more (7th) and average 14.7 yards per catch.
At 5-10, 175, Jackson’s not ideally suited for red-zone work, but he did get his chances last year with 15 looks (24th) from inside the 20, but nine looks inside the 10 (11th) and four from inside the five. Jackson didn’t do much with those looks, scoring only once. The addition of Jeremy Maclin in the first round of this year’s draft might cut into Jackson’s targets to an extent, but it’s Kevin Curtis whose starting role could eventually be in jeopardy. Year 2 is when top receivers typically experience a breakout, and Jackson, providing he keeps his focus, is in a good spot to make it happen.
Will battle for No. 3 wideout role but likely won't be much of a factor in the passing game during his rookie season. Will also act as team's primary punt returner.